Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
More than 40 volunteers were unleashed into uncharted territory Saturday morning. Their mission: clip, cut and pull out as many Asian Bush Honeysuckle plants as possible along the Wabash River, just south of Fairbanks Park.
About 30 Terre Haute South Vigo High School biology, environmental science and earth science students gave up their Saturday morning to participate. William Warner, a 17-year-old South student, was one of them.
“It is hard work but it is fun,” Warner said. “It takes a lot of people pushing on the honeysuckle and people pushing on levers to pop out the roots. We have a lot to go, but we have done a lot thus far.”
The riverside cleanup allowed students and other volunteers an opportunity to work in a larger group to benefit the area.
“I think overall this is a simple way they can help out our community by working together as a team to accomplish something that needs to be done. Plus, it gets them outside so they are not sitting around on a Saturday morning, indoors,” said Ashley Cassell, a South Earth science and AP environmental science teacher.
Jane Morse, the TREES Inc. board member who leads a committee to eradicate ABH in Vigo County, said that in Asia it is seen as is a very beautiful, fragrant plant that is considered very well behaved because it is native to that environment. It was brought over the United States about 60 years ago. It was initially promoted as a good plant to hold back the soil on hillsides, but ABH turned out to be very aggressive in its new environment. ABH produces a plant pheromone that kills other plants that are not honeysuckles.
“Wherever you have honeysuckle, pretty soon you have nothing but honeysuckle, and the native species plants are being destroyed,” Morse said. “If you don’t have natives, then you don’t have native animals. Then you don’t have diversity in your habitat, and you lose so much that you can’t even calculate. It is very important to keep and promote native growth.”
Within two hours, a 10- to 14-foot pile lined the once bare path next to the Wabash River. Morse, who has worked for the past two years in Dobbs Park to remove ABH, was amazed to see what the 40 volunteers produced.
“When the community steps up, things happen. It is just so good to see,” Morse said.
Saturday’s event was a part of the 2013 Year of the River campaign, a Keep Terre Haute Beautiful grant and it concluded National NeighborWoods Month for Terre Haute.
Part of the goal in clearing the 500 feet along the river, and potentially another mile, is to put down a running path along the river where the ABH was removed.
“No one is more excited than me to be able to walk and bike down this trail,” said Mary Kramer, Year of the River co-organizer. “It is a phenomenal amount of work that is getting done. You can see the river. Up into the woods, that is city-owned property, so you will get a huge vista as you walk down here.”